New fire reporting system presented at fire council meeting


The Hill County Fire Board held its biannual meeting on Wednesday, where Lewistown Office of Land Management Duty Officer Don Pyrah introduced a new system for filing initial fire reports , and County Fire Director Amanda Frickel suggested some areas for operational improvement and some new procedures.

Pyrah said the new online reporting system is designed so fire departments can easily submit initial fire reports from a phone, a new simplified system he says will be faster and create more accurate data to extract insights.

He said the report will ask which county the fire is in, the role of the department reporting it, its estimated size and other information.

He said that while the fire is estimated to be over 100 acres, the program also allows the reporter to use its mapping software to instantly locate the phone on a map on which the reporter can make a rough sketch, depicting the area where the fire is burning and perhaps get a more accurate estimate of its size.

Pyrah said this system will replace the 1-800 number used to file reports, but that number will remain active throughout the year until everyone is completely switched to the new system.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said.

He also encouraged chiefs to come up with more unique names for individual fires, provided they were careful not to use people’s names and were “politically correct”.

Frickel talked about a few areas of improvement she would like to see in the future when it comes to fire suppression.

She said that during a recent fire in the Hingham area, the Kremlin Rural Fire Department had to carry out clean-up work, which should have been handled by the district responsible for that area.

She said any department is authorized to respond to a fire and help put it out, but cleanup is supposed to be handled by the department that presides over the district in which the fire is located.

Frickel also said that for the start of the active fire season, likely early May, she was gathering information for the Hill County Commission in preparation for weekly fire calls, so she needed as up-to-date information as possible from from the departments.

She said she had heard comments from some departments that they wanted their voices heard more by the commission when it comes to fire restrictions.

Frickel said she spoke to the commission about it and would like to hold a conference call on Monday to get opinions from fire chiefs so they have more of a say in the decision.

She said commissioners are ultimately the callers for fire restrictions, but the voices of chiefs and those most connected to the issue must also be heard.

“You do the work,” she said.

Frickel also spoke briefly about the ongoing drought. She said the region is already in stage 4 drought conditions and it does not look like it will improve this year.

She also spoke about the condition of the Cottonwood Bridge, which she said firefighters often use but is in desperate need of repairs.

She said funding is available for changes and she is looking for letters of support for the project.

Frickel also said there will be a public meeting for people with questions and concerns about this on April 6 at the Great Northern Fairgrounds Community Center at 6 p.m.

The fire chiefs also briefly discussed the effects the Fresno Dam project will have on them.

Frickel also said she will be attending the Montana County Firefighters Conference in May, which will be the first time Havre has had someone at the event. She said she hopes the experience will provide her with insights into how she can do her job better.


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